I’m not sure how calmly I can talk about today’s developments in New Orleans. Let’s take a quick inventory. You had:* Thousands of hungry, thirsty, sick and desperate people crowding evacuation points amidst dead bodies and ongoing violence.* Stretched-to-the-max and sometimes beseiged police officers having to siphon gasoline from parked cars to patrol the streets, and after stopping looters in stores, expropriating goods to keep themselves hydrated, fed and clothed.* More failed efforts to fix the breaches in the levee system, even as new flooding was temporarily halted by an equalization of water levels between the city and Lake Pontchartrain (in other words, maximum flooding).* A second straight televised speech by the President of the United States that exhibited an eery disconnection from events on the ground, and perhaps a panicked realization that this is quickly becoming a potential political disaster for the administration.* A public comment by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representativescasually suggesting that New Orleans might not be worth rebuilding.Eventually federal help will arrive; Guard units did start showing up this evening to restore order, and evacuations from the Convention Center and the Superdome resumed.But the suffering endured by the most vulnerable people in New Orleans in the interim cannot be erased, and the damage to the city–physically, economically, and morally–during the last few days of chaos will make the task of recovery and reconstruction (assuming Denny Hastert lets it go forward) vastly more extensive, expensive, and potentially futile.This has been another one of those unacknowledged “accountability moments” for the Bush administration. The president is not responsible for Acts of God, but by God, he should be responsible for acts of the federal government when Americans most need it.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.